By making what are called “health visits”, Furetank is trying to improve the health of its personnel and raise their awareness of diet and exercise. The shipping company’s own health coach, Sussi Löfgren, is behind this initiative.
As a previous employee in the HR department and with a recent college diploma in the health area, Sussi Löfgren was re-employed at Furetank in 2008. Her task was to improve the well-being of the seafaring personnel and with that aim in mind she developed the idea of “health visits”.
– I travel with the ship for two or three days and talk with the crewmembers, both in groups and individually. If anybody wants help, such as with giving up smoking or starting to train, we can offer support. The concept is very simple, which I believe is an advantage if it is going to last.
Great interest onboard
Health visits start with a general introduction given on two different occasions so that everyone is able to take part. Individual meetings are then arranged.
The basis of discussions is a questionnaire about such things as smoking and alcohol habits, diet, exercise, sleep and general well-being. Sussi Löfgren gives advice to those who want it, and can also mediate with external contacts. Smokers can get tips about good treatment to give up the habit, a dietician can be engaged to help those who want to lose weight and an introductory programme can be arranged for those who wish to start training.
– But the big gain is that we focus on these issues and show that we believe health is important. I hope to start off good habits for a few employees and in the long term I think that this can lead to healthier personnel and a lower sickness rate.
During the ongoing crisis in shipping, the health visits were postponed as a result of the re-registration of ships, but Sussi Löfgren counts on starting them up again soon. So far she has been on four of the company’s seven ships. Her experience is that seafarers are generally as interested in their health as the average man in the street, and that there is quite a lot of interest in diet and exercise onboard. But one factor that sticks out in the questionnaire responses is the sleep issue.
Lack of sleep widespread
Many feel that sleep is in short supply, despite the three-watch system.
– Above all, this is because we have arrivals and departures in the middle of the night, which means that staff have to be on off-duty watch, says Sussi Löfgren.
The company has an in-house training competition to encourage more exercise. Once a year the ship with the most active crew is rewarded with an extra contribution to its leisure activities account.
– We have well-equipped gyms on six of our ships and hopefully soon on the seventh. Though the amount of exercise depends just as much on the people onboard as the equipment. On the ships where they train a lot there are generally one or two enthusiastic crewmembers who inspire the others, says Sussi Löfgren.
One thing that differs between seafarers and other employees is that they regularly change patterns and diurnal rhythms, depending on whether they are at home or work. This is an issue that seafarers often take up during health visits.
– Some people think it is easier to find good routines when they are onboard, while others say it is easier to live a healthy life at home. It is clear, though, that it can be difficult to readjust to new hours every four or six weeks, says Sussi Löfgren.
One of the health factors which employees onboard are not able to influence much is their diet. Sussi Löfgren’s ambition is to introduce closer cooperation with the ship’s cooks in order to encourage the health perspective on food served.
– When we went through the food purchases from last year there were several people who commented on the biscuits. They said, “I would never buy those chocolate biscuits and have them at home, but here I eat them because they are available and on show”. There are a lot of small changes that can be made, which all contribute to better eating habits.